10 July, 2019
Collector dreams of turning her home into a museum
Sandra Killen’s house is packed with art. She tells Jodi Yeats about how her collecting began – conceding she may have got carried away. Now, she hopes to find a way of sharing her treasures with others.
Rows of paintings fill every available space on the walls of a small century-old cottage in Devonport.
A giant sculpture of a bronze dog in a suit strides from the lounge towards the kitchen, a lonely hound setting out with a guitar case hauled over his shoulder, paws in pockets.
A bay window houses a large Gollum and shelves of Lord of the Rings figurines.
Collector Sandra Killen isn’t crazy about Gollum, but purchased the model as part of her dream of turning her villa into a museum.
“There’s nothing here in Auckland to do with Lord of the Rings. We have got so many tourists, but there’s nothing like this in Devonport.”
Killen’s house is packed with art works. In one spot a Dean Buchanan painting is hung on top of another one. In a small foyer, a Buchanan canvas hangs, drooping, from the ceiling. The attic is full of art.
While she isn’t sure how to go about creating a museum, Killen who attends The Light church in Devonport, believes it will happen if it is meant to.
“I would love to turn this house into a museum. My daughter left home to live with her father at a young age. It was a time when I had a bit of money and it [collecting art] helped me through.”
A combination of an inheritance and selling an apartment in central Auckland gave Killen the windfall she needed to get started in 2010.
Killen, now 55, has previously also bought properties and renovated them before reselling them.
After her marriage ended, a trip to the South Island introduced Killen to the Queens-
town-based creator of the ‘Lonely Dog’ art franchise, Ivan Clarke, along with his associate writer and artist Stu Duval.
Clarke has become a friend, who, she says, always has time to talk to her.
“I’m one of his biggest collectors. I’ve got all the books. One that is valued at $60,000, I got for $8000.”
The signed, hand-drawn and beautifully crafted book is a work of art, which is its true value, as far as Killen is concerned.
“I’m one of the collectors who doesn’t want to sell the art. I’d love to have this all as a museum. I have a lot more than you see,” she says.
Killen estimates she could have a hundred of Clarke’s paintings.
Then there’s a portrait of herself and her father as hounds, dressed in tartan, painted by Stu Duval, inscribed ‘Lord Patrick Killen and Countess Sandra’.
Killen plays YouTube videos on the television of interviews with Clarke and scenes from Comic-Con, expos in the United States where some of of her Weta Studio-created artworks have been displayed.
In another room, commercial radio blares in a high-voltage combination.
Killen’s passion for fantasy art originated in an enjoyment of comics, especially Mickey Mouse, as a child, though she never pursued art herself.
She is drawn to artists who are living in places they love – Clarke in Queenstown and Buchanan in Karekare.
After growing up in Taranaki, Killen’s place is Devonport and intends to never leave.
A massive Buchanan painting, inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party, takes up an entire wall of her living room. Killen loves that she can look at it for two hours and still find something she hasn’t seen before.
Collecting was a choice she made at a time in her life when she had the chance and, Killen concedes, she may have got carried away.
“I don’t go on holidays. I don’t smoke or drink. I’m not in the market now to buy stuff. I think most people have an opportunity to do something. It was my personal choice.
I haven’t done up the kitchen.
“I realise I have got a little too much. It’s more than I anticipated, even for a museum. If things are meant to happen [a museum], something will.”
Killen shares her home with family friend Henry Faulkner who, fortunately, likes Buchanan’s artwork.
He has his own bedroom-cum-office-cum-workshop, a true man-cave at the back of the house, where he can pursue his own interests.
Faulkner once owned the cottage, but sold it to Killen. It’s an amicable arrangement and they evidently jog along well as house-mates.
Killen says her collection tracks her mood. When she’s inspired to dust and polish her artworks, all is well in the world.
While her home is cluttered, shady and in a near-original state, it is beautifully looked after.
Killen, who describes herself as ‘self-retired’ is clearly enjoying her artfully curated world.
This article originally appeared in the July 12 edition of The Devonport Flagstaff. Download PDF.